Education drives the entire world. Learning makes us smarter, stronger, and more appreciative of the environment that surrounds us. Without education, global society would not have progressed as far as it has. Today, the Glimpsers of Matagalpa focused on the Nicaraguan educational experience and how it compares to our familiar experiences at home.
This morning, I woke everyone up very early at 5:30am, in time to get ready to attend school. As I walked around knocking (a little too loudly if you ask Cole) on my fellow Glimpsers’ doors, I relished the quiet serenity of early morning Matagalpa with Jessica on the hostel’s empty upper balcony. It’s incredible to see a place that becomes so wild and has such character later in the day shed in a more tranquil light.
After we finished eating a delicious Nicaraguan breakfast of gallo pinto and scrambled eggs, we set out in groups to two different high schools. I and eight other Glimpsers experienced Denis’s old high school, the private school of INEP. We were shocked and impressed by how colorful the school was. Though the walls were occasionally covered in hastily scrawled marker, the vibrant, graffiti-filled paint gave the school a character reminiscent of our entire experience in Nicaragua.
Once at INEP, my group met the principal and then split up to five different classes in order to shadow individual Nicaraguan students. My first class was biology, which was awesome because I learned about thirty new words in Spanish relating to cells and their structure and responsibility in the body. Min and I made several new friends out of a lot of of the girls in our class, most of whom were utterly captivated by how beautiful he was and continued to ask for pictures even after we had moved on to the next activity.
During the second class of the day, a physics period during which the teacher simply let the class do whatever they wanted, one of the girls who had been sitting on the other side of the classroom slid into the seat next to me. “Hi, what is your name?” she said, in heavily accented English. I grinned, so excited that she had the courage to attempt to speak my first language with me. We struck up a conversation about fairly simple topics (where I was from, her favorite subjects, shared hobbies) until we turned back to Spanish so I could explain my initial impression of her country.
At 10:20, INEP has a 20 minute recess, during which most of the Glimpsers participated in an epic basketball tournament with other students at the school. After a fair number of us had been eliminated, we enjoyed exploding into cheers whenever Danh or Tony made an impressive move against the locals.
Brandon, who was part of the group attending San Luis school, said that they, too, had an incredible time playing basketball. During their recess, he, Josh, and Cole challenged the school’s students, accompanied by the cheers of three levels of spectators. Every time the ‘United States’ team stole the ball or made a shot, the entire building erupted with noise akin to that of a home game at the Oracle.
At our respective schools, the group started to compare and make connections between the schools here and the ones at home. A lot of us were shocked at the apparent mayhem in every class. Do the students not care about getting an education? Do the teachers not care about their students? Why aren’t schools and classes as organized and efficient as they could easily be?
After lunch back at Hostal El Castillo, Ms. Hoang and Mr. Stegeman walked us through an Academic Seminar on education in Nicaragua and the United States. We were surprised by learning-related facts from both countries, including retention rates for teachers and unemployment numbers.
In the evening, we completed our fourth day of English tutoring, which consisted of (finally) a day where I didn’t lose my voice shouting to be heard in a classroom with around forty middle school-aged kids. Harmon, Gaby, Tony, and I completed practice pronouncing the alphabet with an epic game of Hangman for the students, which turned out to be the ideal balance between getting the entire class to participate while not involving too much excitement for the kids to remain in their seats.
I think it’s important to recognize the value of education and what it does for the world. Without quality education, society would regress, and the common man would be unable to make smart and intelligent decisions, both for himself and for others. As Mr. Stegeman pointed out, this seems to be a relevant problem even in the US, as we head into 2016’s highly contested presidential election.
Sitting on the balcony at 11:00pm, Matagalpa has again returned to a steady silence disturbed only by the occasional car motor and chirping cricket. That, and the sound of Kenneth freaking out over and over again about Brandon’s magic tricks. Today, we bonded over a new topic, and we all look forward to the opportunity to explore sensational Matagalpa for ourselves during Free Day tomorrow.